TRNS News Notes — 4/16/14

Eastern Ukraine heats up - standoff? Russia blasts UN Ukraine rights report Officials: al Qaeda still active Immigration: Dems target key Republicans Americans prefer Dems on healthcare (wow) Holder to speak at KS memorial
South Korea: 293 people missing – mostly students – from capsized ferry. Two confirmed dead
In the News

  • Eastern Ukraine heats up – standoff?
  • Russia blasts UN Ukraine rights report
  • Officials: al Qaeda still active
  • Immigration: Dems target key Republicans
  • Americans prefer Dems on healthcare (wow)
  • Holder to speak at KS memorial
  • Syria: “ghastly” UN torture report
  • FBI will have your face in 2015
  • NYPD cans “Muslim spying” police unit
  • Boston remembers
Eastern Ukraine Heats Up
• Latest: five or six armored personnel carriers are reported to have entered the eastern Ukrainian towns of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk today, showing the Russian flag, eyewitnesses say. A standoff is reported in Kramatorsk. Meanwhile, separatists broke into the city hall in Donetsk
• Tuesday, Russian President Putin warned that Ukraine is “on the verge of civil war” after Kiev sent in troops against pro-Russia separatists. Putin, in a phone call to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, described the move as a “sharp escalation.” (BBC, NYT, AP, Reuters, TRNS, me)
• Ukraine launched an “anti-terrorist” operation” in the east of the country. Tensions have mounted in recent days after pro-Russian rebels seized buildings in about 10 strategic towns and cities across eastern Ukraine
• WH spox Jay Carney said, “These provocations in eastern Ukraine are creating a situation in which the govt has to respond.” The WH reiterated that no lethal assistance was planned for Kiev
• Ukrainian acting president Turchynov said Tuesday that troops had regained control of a military airfield in Kramatorsk after fighting with armed pro-Russian groups (see latest, above)
Russia Blasts UN Ukraine Rights Report
• A UN report on human rights in Ukraine and Crimea out Tuesday said “greatly exaggerated stories of harassment of ethnic Russians by Ukrainian nationalist extremists, and misinformed reports of them coming armed to persecute ethnic Russians in Crimea – – (NYT, Reuters, Fox)

• – – were systematically used to create a climate of fear and insecurity that reflected on support to integration of Crimea into the Russian Federation.”

• Investigators also heard numerous reports of vote rigging in the March Crimea referendum, and expressed concerns about the conditions under which the vote took place, citing harassment and abductions of journalists and activists who were opposed to it, as well as the presence of armed militias
• The Russian Foreign Ministry blasted the report (which said many other things it didn’t like). “One gets the impression that the report was fabricated to correspond with conclusions formed in advance,” a statement said
• Opposition forces captured the strategic South Sudanese town of Bentiu over the weekend. A rebel general then called on foreign companies operating nearby oil fields to cease operations by the end of the week. Oil largely funds the ops of the South Sudanese govt (TRNS)
Officials: al Qaeda Still Active
• U.S. counterterrorism officials say a promotional al Qaeda video, showing what looks like an open public appearance by Nasser al-Wuhayshi, the group’s No. 2, presiding over an event with roughly 100 armed fighters in Yemen, shows the group is still active (WSJ, CNN, Politico, me)
• “The depiction of such a large gathering of fighters and the appearance of senior leaders are atypical of AQAP’s propaganda videos,” a U.S. official said. The officials wouldn’t say whether U.S. spy agencies knew about Wuhayshi’s appearance at the event before the video’s release
• Wuhayshi appears in the video, which is from earlier this year, addressing a crowd, as he threatens America saying, “We must eliminate the cross,” a reference to the U.S. CNN broadcast the video Tuesday
• The CIA and the U.S. Joint Special Ops Command run drone programs in Yemen. The military’s program has been on hold since a wedding convoy strike in December that killed civilians. U.S. officials are particularly concerned about the threat posed by Ibrahim al-Asiri, AQAP’s master bomb maker, who built the shoe bomb
• Republicans are suspicious of changes in the way the Census Bureau will ask questions about health insurance, reportedly to improve accuracy. It’s likely to produce lower estimates of the uninsured (Hill)
Immigration: Dems Target Key Republicans
• President Obama met with six faith leaders Tuesday to discuss immigration. The leaders told the president stories about how immigration policies had impacted members of their congregations (Politico, Hill, TRNS, me)
• House Democrats announced an initiative to target 30 Republicans during this recess who have voiced some support for immigration reform. The Dems want enough votes for a discharge petition – 27 – to allow a floor vote on the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill
• Unlikely to get them. The Democrats’ move is a last-ditch effort because key lawmakers anticipate that the Obama administration will take some administrative action to stem the tide of deportations that have become a problem between Obama and the Latino community
• But Obama told the religious leaders that he has no plans to make unilateral changes to immigration laws while there’s still a window for Congress to pass legislation. (bit vague) (Republicans would go ballistic and it would very likely mobilize voters at the polls in November – but which voters?)
• Alex Sink, s Democrat who lost to now-Rep David Jolly in a March special election that many called a national bellwether, said she won’t challenge Jolly again in November. National Dems had pushed SInk to run again after a narrow loss (Tampa Bay Times, TRNS)
2014: Americans Prefer Dems on Healthcare (Wow)
• An online Reuters-Ipsos poll out Tuesday has intriguing implications for the midterms. Nearly one-third of respondents said they prefer Democrats’ plan, policy or approach to healthcare, compared to just 18% for Republicans. An uptick for Dems and a slide for the GOP since Feb (Reuters, me)
• “In the last couple of weeks, as the exchanges hit their goals, news coverage has been more positive and the support of the Democratic Party on this issue has rebounded. It’s not that independents are moving their way,” said Ipsos pollster Chris Jackson
• One-fifth of respondents said they didn’t know which party had a better plan, and another fifth said neither party did. National Republicans have promoted opposition to Obamacare as the most important issue at play in the elections. But they have no plan of their own
• “Democrats have not managed to have a huge lead over Republicans so much as Republicans have managed to damage their own position and stay behind Democrats,” Jackson said. “That’s because people don’t view the Republican Party as standing for any particular healthcare system.” (better get one)
• The RNC sued the IRS on Tax Day, charging the Obama administration withheld docs sought in a FOIA request regarding the agency’s targeting of political organizations (Hill, TRNS)
Holder to Speak: KS Memorial
• AG Eric Holder is slated to speak at a Thursday interfaith memorial service of “unity and hope” for the victims of Sunday’s shootings at two KS Jewish community centers in what’s being called a hate crime (Hill, NYT, TPM, me)
• Earlier Tuesday, Holder urged Congress to approve an additional $15 million in active-shooter training for police around the country. In a weekly video message, Holder said tens of thousands of officers had already received training for the program
• A state prosecutor Tuesday charged alleged white supremacist Glenn Miller with one count of capital murder and one count of premeditated first-degree murder in the killings. The U.S. attorney for the District of KS said his office was pursuing federal hate-crime charges against Miller
• The Southern Poverty Law Center released audio recordings of Miller’s 2013 calls to SPLC staff. In one of them, he claimed he had already “done a hell of a lot of violence on behalf of my race.”
Syria: UN Torture Report
• The UN Security Council fell silent Tuesday after ambassadors viewed a series of ghastly photographs of dead Syrian civil war victims, France’s ambassador said. The pics showed people who were emaciated, bones protruding, some bearing the marks of strangulation, repeated beatings and eyes having been gouged out (AP, TRNS)
• French Amb Gerard Araud said questions slowly began about the credibility of the slides, publicly released in Jan as part of a forensic investigation funded by the govt of Qatar – a major backer of the opposition. The veracity of the photos couldn’t be independently verified
• Syria’s Justice Ministry has dismissed the photos. One of the authors, former Sierra Leone Special Court prosecutor David Crane, said, “Bodies in, bodies out. It was a very systematic processing of human beings. They were laid out in a parking lot because there were too many to put into the morgue.”
• U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power said the images “indicate that the Assad regime has carried out systematic, widespread and industrial killing. Nobody who sees these images will ever be the same.”
• The savagery of the victims’ last moments was obvious. One photo of a person’s face showed an eye gouged out, and a spray of blood that gushed a few inches from the eye socket onto the ground beside the head

FBI Will Have Your Face in 2015
• The civil liberties group, Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has raised privacy concerns over a facial recognition database being developed by the FBI that could contain 52 million images by 2015 (BBC, me)
• EFF’s concerned that images of non-criminals would be stored alongside those of criminals. The FBI says the database will reduce terrorist and criminal activities. The database is part of the bureau’s Next Generation Identification (NGI) program, a large biometric database being developed to replace the current fingerprint system
• As well as facial recognition, the program’s being developed to include finger prints, iris scans and palm prints. In the current system, the fingerprints of criminals and non-criminals are kept in separate databases. You might have your prints stored if you applied for a job that requires a background check

• Under the new system, if a candidate is asked by an employer to submit a photo, that would be stored by the FBI, too. The difference is that all photos will be stored on the same database, “You could be implicated as a criminal suspect, just by virtue of having that image in the non-criminal file,” said the EFF (super creepy)

• A report out today finds that fruit and veg prices are poised to jump in coming months because of the California drought. A head of lettuce could go up by as much as 62c and avocados could rise 35c each (WSJ)
NYPD Cans “Muslim Spying” Police Unit
• The NYPD has abandoned a secretive program, started after 9/11, that dispatched plainclothes detectives into Muslim neighborhoods to eavesdrop on conversations and built detailed files on where people ate, prayed, shopped and played soccer, the dept said (NYT, me)
• The NYPD’s tactics, which are the subject of two federal lawsuits, drew criticism from civil rights groups and a senior official with the FBI who said they harmed national security by sowing mistrust for law enforcement in Muslim communities
• “The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” said Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Assn of NY. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries.”
• Detectives were told to chat up the employees at Muslim-owned businesses and “gauge sentiment” about America and foreign policy. After years of collecting info, however, the police acknowledged that it never generated a lead

• Police Commissioner Bill Bratton met last week with several advocates who wanted the unit closed down. At the meeting, the dept’s new intel chief, John Miller, indicated the dept was shutting the unit down

• Vid: At a town hall Monday night, Rep Ted Yoho (R-FL) said he wasn’t sure the Civil Rights Act is constitutional… FYI, a vampire role player is running against him in the primary
Boston Remembers
• “There are no strangers here,” Gov Deval Patrick said Tuesday about Boston, during a ceremony marking one year since the deadly bombing at the city’s marathon. “We are in the end, one community” that “turns to each other in times of need.” (NYT, Boston Globe, Reuters, WaPo, TRNS)
• Governor Patrick’s words encapsulated the sense of a city still grappling with a day that shattered a joyful ritual dating back more than a century, but also engendered a resolve borne out in a now ubiquitous slogan, “Boston Strong.”
• Patrick Downes, who had been standing near the finish line with his wife when the bombs went off, causing each to lose a leg, told the crowd, “We would never wish the devastation and pain that we have experienced on any of you. However, we do wish that all of you, at some point in your lives, feel as loved as we have every day of this past year.”
• VP Joe Biden said, “We refuse to bend, refuse to change, refuse to yield to fear. This is what makes us so proud of this city and this state, what makes me so proud to be an American. It’s that we have never, ever yielded to fear. Never.”
Victoria Jones

TRNS’ Geoff Holtzman, Nicholas Salazar, Luke Vargas, Ryan Boysen and Washington Desk contributed to this report


Victoria Jones is the White House correspondent of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally. Victoria is a contributor to CNN, Fox News Channel, MSNBC and the BBC. She is the former TV editor for the leading publication of the talk media industry, and has hosted a news talk show on MSNBC. Victoria Jones has hosted The Victoria Jones Show for 16 years. One of the most respected broadcasters in the industry, she has carved out a unique niche - a provocative mix of the hottest news topics, personality, opinion, entertainment and intrigue. In 2002 Victoria was named as one of the “Most Important Talk Show Hosts in America” by Talkers Magazine. She has won a place on the list seven times. She has also been named one of the “20 most requested guests” by Talkers Magazine. Since coming to the United States from the United Kingdom, Victoria quickly worked her way to the highest ranks of the industry by landing on-air positions at some of the country’s most prestigious stations: WWRC Washington DC, WXYT Detroit, WRKO Boston and WLAC Nashville. After a successful run in syndication, she returned to Washington DC, where her show was most recently heard on WMAL. Her provocative and outspoken style, combined with razor wit and nimble versatility, have garnered her industry awards, including the Associated Press Award for Best Radio Talk Show. Follow Victoria on Twitter @victoriajonesdc

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